To say that sneakers are in right now would be an understatement. Not long ago, sneakers were only for the gym, and were a complete fashion faux pas. In the 90’s, women wore sneakers to commute ala Melanie Griffith in Working Girl (me included!) but that rightfully faded. Now, Adidas and Nike (among others) have worked to make their sneakers better looking and more light weight. As “Athleisure Wear” has become more prevalent and a fast growing trend, sneakers have followed and women now have multiple pairs for their workouts.
Sneakers have now gone to the next level. Women are wearing sneakers with everything, including dresses’. A feature in Vogue Magazine recently stated that “Sneakers have emerged as a surprisingly chic and wonderfully comfortable pairing for elevated ensembles,” showing pictures of Rhianna and Kendall Jenner wearing sneakers with long dresses.
To explore this fashion trend, I met with Yu-Ming Wu the Founder of Sneaker News and Chief Marketing Officer for Stadium Goods, a NYC based sneaker consignment shop. Yu-Ming is one of the most influential people in the sneaker world right now and knows everything there is to know about sneakers. Read on to see his views on the rise of sneakers and which ones to own.
Yu-Ming, you are recognized for being one of the most influential people in sneakers right now. How did you get there?
I had a big love of sneakers since I was a child. When I was in college at Parsons, I re-discovered the world of sneakers -specifically collectible sneakers. I used to collect comic books, so I knew that culture and fell right back into it. I hooked up with a colleague and started with an online sneaker magazine called freshnessmag.com as I was finishing Parsons. This was in 2003 and Google was just starting, plus there was no Facebook, Instagram or Twitter so I had to search sneaker forums for my information. The word “Blog” just came into existence and even though there was no money in it, I had a feeling it could turn into something. I ended up getting a job as a web architect for Nike Basketball. I worked there for 3 years and discovered a whole new world of digital while still working on my own blog. I started Kicks Finder which is like an EBay for sneakers- similar to the way we sell consigned sneakers at Stadium Goods. Eventually this doubled my salary and I was convinced the sneaker world was it- now I could afford the car I desperately needed! I turned down an offer in 2007 to go to Nike Sportswear so I could work exclusively on my website, Sneakernews. We put in a lot of work. I wanted it to be the CNN of sneakers. That was my goal. We are not there yet but we are WELL on our way. Overall, I think I’ve gotten to where I am due to my passion for sneakers and putting a lot of energy into it, working my ass off, and as Lebron said never giving up.
Tell me about Stadium Goods- what makes the customer experience so unique while shopping and consigning there?
A mutual friend introduced me to John McPheters and Jed Stillers (the founders of Stadium Goods) and they asked me to come onboard as Chief Marketing Officer given my sneaker knowledge to help them build up their brand. The three of us, along with Sam Park and some of the original partners/employees were determined to impart a higher standard in the sneaker boutique concept. Most importantly, we put a LOT of energy and thought into the customer experience and customer service. How do we present ourselves? How are we perceived? What makes our customers feel special about shopping at Stadium Goods? We are incredibly lucky to be in a fashion capital like NYC. If we are going to rent an 8000 square foot store there, we had better get it right! So anytime we see something that’s not not right or want to improve, we try to immediately get on it and discuss solutions to enhance our level of customer service. We are essentially catering to a very high end clientele, ala Bergdorf Goodman. The quality and uniqueness of our selection plus the specialness of the experience are key to our success.
Sneakers used to be only for the gym but now they are a major fashion statement, especially with women. Why do you think that is?
The trend I see for the next 5 years is all about comfort. Over the past 3 years we have seen companies move in this direction. Nike put together Fly Knit, which is incredibly comfortable. The Air Force One was one of the first shoes they redesigned from scratch. The entire interior has been rebuilt so that you don’t feel a single stitch. There’s also the Adidas Ultra Boost and Alpha Bounce. Women are starting to realize being stylish doesn’t necessarily mean having to wear 6 inch heels. And if you’re going to wear sneakers, why not wear the absolute coolest ones???
There are many collaborations and collections that are targeted towards the female customer. Rhianna with Puma, Pharrell Williams with Stan Smith, Celine and Nike, Takashi Murakami and Vans and of course Yeezys. What are the most popular sneakers women are buying?
At the moment I would say our clientele are still heavily into Yeezy’s, but the Rhianna line is incredible and has sold really well.
The Stan Smith is making a major come back. I wore them as a kid! What is it about that sneaker that makes it so hot?
Adidas has put a lot of work into PR for that shoe. Kanye also definitely helped Adidas quite a bit to make them very cool-not that Stan Smith really needed that – but that extra bump from Kanye helped quite a bit.
What is a statement sneaker every woman or man should have?
Tough one! Stan Smith is one of them, Air Force One and one pair of Air Jordans.
So how would you sum up the outlook for your market?
Comfort along with sleek design will play a big part in design over then next 3-5 years.
Thank you for your time!
Stadium Goods can be found at 47 Howard Street, NYC
And on Instagram @stadiumgoods